December 6, 2017




Kingston budget passes, critics warn against deficit spending

KINGSTON - The Kingston Common Council passed the city’s 2018 general municipal budget Tuesday night with little debate or discussion. The bottom line moving forward next year is $42.5 million, up 2.54 percent from the 2017 budget, an increase of just over $1 million.

The tax levy remains unchanged from last year at $17.65 million. That was achieved in part by dipping into the fund balance to the tune of $932,177. Critics warn that the Kingston fund balance is growing dangerously low, which combined with deficit spending will adversely affect city finances.

Quiet end to 2017 for the Kingston Council. Few attended the final meeting which included adoption of the 2018 budget

Citing concerns about how the budget process was handled this year, 7th Ward Alderwoman Mary Ann Mills voted against it, along with 9th Ward Alderwoman Deborah Brown. Both officials are leaving public office and will be replaced in 2018 by newcomers.

Mills was critical of how the spending plan was vetted.

“I learned years ago from veteran council members that we do not accept the status quo; that we need to review, recommend, and make applicable changes that are in the best interests of the city. In my opinion, that did not happen this year,” Mills said. “Motions were quick to accept the budget as-is, rather than talking through this process. Each and every council person needs to fully understand the budget process, attend budget meetings, and educate themselves if there is any question as to what the process is.”

Mills went on at length citing what she said were fiscal irregularities in the upcoming budget, especially with regard to the contingency fund, which is allegedly being misused in 2018 to purchase vehicles.

“This process was sneaky, and there was no open government or transparency applied here,” Mills said.  “The incoming council, and current members of the council that will still remain, should be watchful that three unresolved contracts are outstanding, and monies have been appropriated for this, however spending down a contingency balance for non-emergent items, that will resurface in a year, is not what the purpose is.”  

Brown agreed, noting that the contingency fund is often used to pay overtime during snow removal, which unlike vehicle purchases cannot be bonded. A total of $10,000 was placed into contingency for 2018 when the Finance & Audit Committee voted against spending that sum on laptop purchases for the common council members – which was the only significant amendment made to the proposed spending plan.

The common council out-voted Mills and Brown, 7 -2, without comment.

In addition to a $5 million sewer budget and $1.87 million capital plan, the common council also approved several million in new bonding, including $490,000 for required matching funding to the Broadway Streetscape Project; $1.4 million for continuing grout removal at the Washington Avenue (sinkhole) Tunnel; $800,000 for infrastructure upgrades beneath the future I-587 roundabout; and $1.87 million to pay the cost of various city purposes.

2018 Proposed Budget Document

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